Parent conferences: One of my favorite, and also most dreaded times of the school year. Will I have good news to share? Will anyone cry? Is progress being made? Usually for me, the answer is yes to all three questions (especially the crying part)! It can be tough, however, when the news I have to share isn’t so favorable.
How do you explain to a parent that their child is struggling in some aspect of their educational day and NOT have them leave upset?
I try to always be mindful of what I believe is the most important criterion for the Teacher Evaluation Program. DUM Dum dum……CRITERION 7!!!
It should be obvious why this criterion is so important. But just in case it ISN’T obvious, let me explain.
Parent communication and collaboration is ESSENTIAL for our students. Let me say that again. ESSENTIAL!
In 2002, the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory published “A New Wave of Evidence: The Impact of School, Family, and Community Connections on Student Achievement.” In this report, studies from the preceding decade were reviewed, and the information gathered was staggering. Students with involved parents were more likely to:
- Earn higher grades and test scores
- Be promoted, pass their classes, and earn credits
- Attend school regularly
- Have better social skills, show improved behavior, adapt well to school
- Graduate and go on to post-secondary education
I think we can all agree that these are things we all want for our students.
- The easiest (and required) way to communicate is during parent conferences. If this is your only time to sit down and talk with a parent, make it meaningful. Talk about their child’s growth, not just where they are lacking. Talk to parents about how they can be involved, be it homework, reading, or just helping their child set a schedule and follow it.
- Individual daily or weekly notes. This is more time consuming, however, when you communicate weekly with parents, they have a better picture about what is going on at school. They aren’t surprised by a big project or test materials that need to be studied. When there are academic concerns, parents aren’t shocked to find out about it at report card time.
- Class newsletters or class-wide emails. This is a simpler version, and touches on things in a much broader way. Sometimes (all the time) we are busy, and this is the best way we can get information out to parents.
- Phone calls home! My favorite! Remember, call for positive things, not just concerning things! Parents want to feel something more than dread when the school number pops up on their phone.
Parents need to know that we are invested in not only their child, but in them. Too often I come across parents who have had their own traumatic experience in school. Maybe they didn’t do well, or always got in trouble. Meeting with me can be scarier for them as an adult than when they were young. My students struggle with academics and behavior, so often we have to have difficult conversations that revolve around really tough issues. I want parents to know that I hear them, and I am committed to working with them to meet their child’s needs. Condemnation for missing medicine or not finishing homework does nothing to improve performance at school. It only serves to shame the parent and weaken our relationship. Parents are busy! They work, have a family, and in my case, have a child with incredibly high needs. They already know what the problems are. I do not need to tell them. Instead, I want them to be my partner in improving their child’s performance. Can I help set up a reinforcement system for completing homework? Can I connect them to community resources? Can I work with them to develop a school-home plan for behavior improvement? YES!
In what ways are you communicating and involving parents in your classroom practices? Please share in the comments below!
Here are some additional resources regarding Parent Involvement!